Press freedom debate: Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger attacks royal charters as a 'medieval piece of nonsense'

 

Leading journalists last night voiced their concerns for the future of investigative reporting in the face of new press regulation, with Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of The Guardian, describing royal charters as a “medieval piece of nonsense”.

Click here to watch the full session of the Investigative Journalism Debate

In a debate at The London Press Club, Mr Rusbridger, who has come under fire in recent weeks for his paper’s publication of top-secret files, said: “What journalists have to do is create something clearly independent of politicians and the press and we would get a lot of support from the public. But this medieval piece of nonsense which appeared out of the blue is the thing that has hideously complicated things.”

The draft plan to regulate the press includes powers to impose million-pound fines on UK publishers, demand apologies, and set up a new low-fee complaints system. Supported by the main political parties, it will be put forward for approval to the Privy Council on 30 October.

Tom Harper, The Independent’s investigations reporter, said the proposed changes would prevent journalists getting information that was in the public interest.

In answer to the question “Can Investigative Journalism Survive?”, Mr Harper said: “Yes, it will always survive because there will always be people of conscience on the inside brave enough to blow the whistle. And there will always be nosy journalists who want to uncover wrongdoing.”

But he said it was getting increasingly difficult in the post-Leveson age as journalists’ interactions with sources are much harder. “Whistleblowers in the public interest are being arrested for exposing things that are embarrassing to officialdom and, thanks to Edward Snowden, we now know communications such as Skype are able to be monitored.

“Lord Justice Leveson proposed that all communications between journalists and police officers should be minuted and conducted in the presence of a press officer. I understand the concerns over inappropriate interactions between the police and the press, but that ‘catch-all’ recommendation has made it much harder for police officers to blow the whistle to journalists. I believe that is anti-democratic and, crucially, not in the public interest.”

Andrew Gilligan, a reporter for The Telegraph, said: “Arbitration would be free of charge for them (the claimants), but not for us. It will be a gold mine for claim farmers. There will be far fewer stories that will risk a claim.”

He added: “Almost all investigative journalism involves an assessment of the balance between risk and reward. By raising the risk, the balance is tipped further away from the journalist. I think press freedom stands at a crossroads in this country and we are all in real danger.”

Tom Bower, a biographer who has won a series of libel battles against Robert Maxwell, Richard Branson and Richard Desmond, said newspapers were already regulated by strict libel laws and an unforgiving public: “We are already regulated by some of the most draconian libel laws and if people don’t want to buy a newspaper they shut down like the News of the World. But, even with the failures at Stafford Hospital, it has still stayed open.”

Heather Brooke, a journalist who helped expose the MPs’ expenses scandal, said that it was a dangerous delusion that the public could think news coverage and investigative reporting could be free. It cost money and unless ways could be found to provide this serious journalism was under threat.

Doug Wills, Chairman of London Press Club, said: “We felt it was important that those on the front line of investigative journalism should be able to have a frank debate about what many see as unprecedented threats and pressures on investigative journalism. The passionate defence of serious journalism and the confidence in the future of investigations into issues of public interest was heartening to hear. And it was encouraging that the wide spectrum of people who attended the debate roundly supported this.”

A Royal Charter supported by the main political parties will be put forward for approval to the Privy Council on 30 October. An alternative charter drawn up by the industry was rejected by the Privy Council.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Robert De Niro, Martin Scorsese and DiCaprio, at an awards show in 2010
filmsDe Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
News
i100
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Sport
England captain Wayne Rooney during training
FOOTBALLNew captain vows side will deliver against Norway for small crowd
Life and Style
Red or dead: An actor portrays Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory, rumoured to have bathed in blood to keep youthful
health
News
peopleJustin Bieber charged with assault and dangerous driving after crashing quad bike into a minivan
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Sport
Radamel Falcao poses with his United shirt
FOOTBALLRadamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant in Colombia to Manchester United's star signing
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Account Manager / Sales Account Manager / Recruitment Account Manager

£25k Basic (DOE) – (£30k year 1 OTE) : Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright A...

Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

Trend Writer / Copywriter

£25 - 30k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Trend Writer / Copywriter: Retail, Design and...

Day In a Page

Chief inspector of GPs: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

Steve Field: ‘Most doctors don’t really know what bad practice can be like for patients’

The man charged with inspecting doctors explains why he may not be welcome in every surgery
Stolen youth: Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing

Stolen youth

Younger blood can reverse many of the effects of ageing
Bob Willoughby: Hollywood's first behind the scenes photographer

Bob Willoughby: The reel deal

He was the photographer who brought documentary photojournalism to Hollywood, changing the way film stars would be portrayed for ever
Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Hollywood heavyweights produce world's most expensive corporate video - for Macau casino

Scorsese in the director's chair with De Niro, DiCaprio and Pitt to star
Angelina Jolie's wedding dress: made by Versace, designed by her children

Made by Versace, designed by her children

Angelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
Anyone for pulled chicken?

Pulling chicks

Pulled pork has gone from being a US barbecue secret to a regular on supermarket shelves. Now KFC is trying to tempt us with a chicken version
9 best steam generator irons

9 best steam generator irons

To get through your ironing as swiftly as possible, invest in one of these efficient gadgets
England v Norway: Wayne Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

Rooney admits England must ‘put on a show’ to regain faith

New captain vows side will deliver for small Wembley crowd
‘We knew he was something special:’ Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing

‘We knew he was something special’

Radamel Falcao's journey from teenage debutant to Manchester United's star signing
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York